Try These PT and Run Workouts to Improve Your Timed Runs

Are you looking for a classic workout routine to help you build up to military physical fitness tests? Even though there have been tactical fitness changes in the Army and Marine Corps, the standard calisthenics and cardio tests largely have remained the same, with the exception of sit-ups evolving into the plank pose.

Every branch of service still has a running test to measure cardiovascular fitness. The Navy, Coast Guard and Air Force use the 1.5-mile timed run. The Army still tests the two-mile timed run after the Army physical fitness test (recruits) and the new Army combat fitness test (active duty). And the USMC has the longest military running event with three-mile timed runs.

Here is a workout that focuses on push-ups, pull-ups and either crunches or plank pose. You also will focus on your goal pace running for the timed run distance required by your branch of service.

Warm up with a 1-mile run. If you prefer to limit your miles on a given day, you can opt for bike riding for 10 minutes instead.

Pyramid 1-10

Pull-ups: 1 (Army members should try leg tucks for the odd sets. Leg tucks are basically half pull-ups with knees coming up to touch elbows.)

Push-ups: 2 (Army members should try hand release push-ups.)

Situps: 3 or Plank pose: 5 seconds

Do dynamic stretches between each set and stop at 10.

If you follow the circuit pyramid (1-10), you will total 55 pull-ups, 110-165 push-ups, 165 sit-ups or a total of nearly 4 minutes, 30 seconds of plank pose.

The sets progressions look like this:

Set 1: 1 pull-up, 2 push-ups, 3 sit-ups or 5 seconds plank pose.

Set 2: 2 pull-ups, 4 push-ups, 6 sit-ups or 10 seconds plank pose.

Set 3: 3 pull-ups, 6 push-ups, 9 sit-ups or 15 seconds plank pose…

Work your way up to set 10: 10 pull-ups, 20 push-ups, 30 sit-ups or 50 seconds plank pose.

Regardless of which test you’re required to take in the military, this little circuit has something for everybody. It is also scalable, as you do not have to go all the way up to set 10. Just go until you fail or take out an exercise (such as pull-ups) and feel free to add exercises to the system. You can get creative and mix in other testing events if needed.


Running has not changed despite the evolution of PT tests to tactical fitness tests. You still must practice running, because the run is not going away in the military.

The following run intervals are not sprints, but a focus on learning the pace you need to reach your goal time for whatever distance you are running. You may want to reduce or increase the number of sets you are doing to fit your current running progression, but eventually you will want to build up to 1-2 times the distance of your timed runs.

If you need a break from running to reduce impact on your legs, try a 2-4 minute bike ride or rowing to replace the 400-800-meter runs as needed.

Repeat 10 times
Run: 400 meters goal pace
Walk: 100 meters

Or you can do the one below instead. However, feel free to do both if you can handle it. Adjust total sets to your abilities.

Repeat 5 times
Run: 800 meters at goal pace
Walk: 200 meters

Goal pace: Select a goal pace that’s one minute faster than your current run time. If you now can run an eight-minute mile and want a seven-minute mile, your goal pace for these workouts will be 1:45 and 3:30 respectively for the 400- and 800-meter distances.


The back half of the pyramid can be a cooldown for the higher levels of fitness, but do what you can and start where it is feasible and work yourself back down to the easiest set from set 1 above.

Pyramid 9-1

Pull-ups: 1

Push-ups: 2

Static stretches between each set: Stop at set 1.

Stew Smith is a former Navy SEAL and fitness author certified as a Strength and Conditioning Specialist (CSCS) with the National Strength and Conditioning Association. Visit his Fitness eBook store if you’re looking to start a workout program to create a healthy lifestyle. Send your fitness questions to stew@stewsmith.com.

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